One question I was asked last week is how long a scarf should be, especially when the person is knitting it as a gift. Unfortunately, my answer was: "Well, it depends!" Not very satisfactory, I agree.
So I am going to look at two of my scarf patterns, the Elizabeth Scarf shown above, and my newly-published pattern, the Beckenham Scarf, pictured below.
I tend to think of the Elizabeth Scarf as a ladies' scarf, and the Beckenham Scarf as one for the men-folk, but of course this is rather a sweeping generalisation and both could be suitable for anyone on your gift-list with the right yarn and colour choices.
Both of the scarves feature reversible stitches which means that they will suit any style of wearing. If a scarf is made from a regular knit stitch, then it is harder for it to look good when casually draped around the neck or thrown over the shoulder.
But a reversible scarf can be tucked in a dressy fashion inside an overcoat or allowed to wrap or drape at will, so will suit a variety of uses.
So, how do you choose what length to make your next scarf?
The best rule of thumb is that you should make a scarf approximately equal to the height of the person who will be wearing it. This will give a nicely proportioned scarf without being too short for a tall person or swamping a more diminutive figure.
However, you can modify this "rule" by thinking of how the person usually wears their scarves.
The first category I think of as Senatorial or Executive. You see this style often at places such as Washington's Dulles airport on a Friday afternoon.
The scarf is neatly draped around the neckline and allowed to hang open with the scarf ends exactly aligned, then the blazer or overcoat is shrugged on over the top. If the temperatures start to drop, then one end of the scarf can be folded neatly over the other and the coat buttoned up.
For this style you will want a reasonably narrow scarf, say 15-20cm/6-8 ins wide, preferably worked in a soft and fine yarn such as a luxurious merino.
For the ladies, continue until it measures about 112-120cm / 44-48 ins long. For a man's scarf, 120-135cm / 48-54 ins would make a good draping length.
The next style of scarf is for the Active Set. It is a bit longer than the previous version, so can either be flipped back over the shoulder or wrapped tightly around the neckline.
This is a popular style for walkers and cyclists. The wrapping gives extra warmth at the point where the wind usually finds a gap at the top of your coat, yet is not trailing to risk getting caught in the spokes of your wheel.
Knit these scarves with a width of 18-22 cm / 7-9 ins using a cozy medium-weight wool, and with a length of about 135cm / 54 ins for a lady and 150cm / 60 ins for a chap.
That brings us to the Regular Scarf. We all have some of these - a good average length and perfect for most uses. If you can't decide what length of scarf to make, then go for this one. It will find a happy home somewhere!
Keep the width as for the last scarf but make the scarf about 165cm / 66 ins long for the ladies on your gift list, and 185cm / 72 ins for the men.
The next style is for the Artistic people you know. Adding an extra 15cm / 6 ins to the length of the scarf gives extra scope for more innovative wrapping methods, including the ever-popular centre-pull wrap.
So for the ladies, aim for 185cm / 72 ins and for the men make the scarf 200cm / 78 ins long.
The maroon Elizabeth Scarf pictured here, for example, is 16.5cm / 6.5 ins wide and 183cm / 72 ins long. This scarf can be wrapped several times around the neck or folded in half for a pull-through style, giving it great versatility.
Or you can go wider. Knitting a 22-25cm / 9-10 ins scarf will give a good wide result, but going further to 28-35cm / 11-14 ins will give a cozy extra width for scrunching and folding into shape.
The chunky Beckenham Scarf shown here is 28cm / 11 ins wide x 185cm / 72 ins long.
Then there are the Fashionistas among us! And the trend this year is for super-long wrapping styles and volume for both ladies and men.
Go for the same width as above but just keep knitting until it looks right for the seriously fashion-conscious recipient. Just stop before Dr Who might consider wearing it!
For this type of volume-wrapping continue knitting until the scarf measures about 200-215cm / 78-84 ins in length.
I hope that gives you lots of ideas for tailoring your scarf patterns to just the right length for the person you have in mind. Please click here to see further details for all the scarf patterns available on my website.
(Oh, and in case you want to know, there were several Dr Who scarves, and the longest measured a cool 26ft! That's some serious knitting there...)
Previous Blogpost: Beckenham Scarf
Blogpost 26 Feb 2012: Either Way Up - The Elizabeth Scarf
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